Maryland is among the most expensive states in the country -- No. 8 of 50 -- in which to make an in-state long-distance call, a new survey shows.
The average cost of a three-minute, intrastate long-distance call of 25 miles in Maryland is 86 cents, making it the eighth most expensive state when it comes to in-state calling, according to National Utility Service of Park Ridge, N.J., a consultancy that surveys calling rates annually.
Ironically, the most expensive state for intrastate calls -- West Virginia -- and the least expensive state -- New Jersey -- are both served by Bell Atlantic Corp., the parent company of C&P Telephone Co. of Maryland.
A three-minute call that costs 86 cents in Maryland costs $1.44 in West Virginia and 40 cents in New Jersey, the NUS survey said.
Ken Pitt, a Bell Atlantic spokesman in Arlington, Va., said the disparity in rates within Bell Atlantic's territories is due to factors such as geography and population density.
He said the cost to provide service in West Virginia, with its mountainous terrain and sparse population, is considerably higher thanit is in New Jersey.
According to NUS, the national average cost of a three-minute, direct-dialed, intrastate call of 25 miles is 70 cents this year, unchanged from a year ago.
Most rates have remained stable or dropped in cost since last year's survey. The two exceptions were Illinois and Delaware, where the cost of a three-minute call jumped by 26 percent and 59 percent, respectively. Delaware is also served by Bell Atlantic.
Sarkis Soultanian, president of NUS, said intrastate long-distance calling rates should remain stable for the rest of the year.
"However, should the recession in the United States last longer than anticipated, we could see rates begin to climb," he said.
In Maryland, basic phone rates are frozen until next year under terms of a deal struck by C&P, the Maryland Public Service Commission and the Office of the People's Counsel. In exchange for freezing rates, the commission gave C&P some regulatory freedoms the local phone monopoly had long sought.
When the freeze expires next year, the commission is expected to open a rate case to determine whether C&P's rates should be increased, decreased or remain unchanged.